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8 Aug 2019

Government Introduces New Tough Restrictions On Protests

Legislators in the West African nation of Togo, ruled by one family for decades, have tightened a protest law to further restrict demonstrations after a wave of opposition rallies.

Togo saw regular marches in 2017 and 2018 against President Faure Gnassingbe’s grip on power.
In April a demonstrator died and dozens were wounded in mass protests as officials pushed to change the constitution to allow Gnassingbe to run for two more terms in office.

The legislative changes passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday banned protests on key roads, including in urban centres and near government buildings, “for strategic, economic and security reasons”.

It also limited any demonstrations to between 11am and 6pm and said the number of marches allowed in any one town per week could be restricted by the authorities.

Territorial administration minister Payadowa Boukpessi said the authorities had been forced to tighten the law to allow better supervision of protests given the “terrorist threats in the sub-region and at the gates of our country”.

“These changes were made taking into account the consequences of the public demonstrations that our country has experienced since August 19, 2017,” he said.

Opposition leader Nathaniel Olympio slammed the move by the authorities as an attempt to stifle dissent.

“The Togolese government is scared of the next outburst of anger from the people and wants to gag them by banning demonstrations,” he told AFP.

He said the authorities were using rising insecurity as an excuse to curb freedoms but this would only “increase frustration” among the population.

President Gnassingbe has held office since 2005, when he succeeded his father, General Eyadema Gnassingbe, who ruled for 38 years.

Togo’s parliament in May approved the constitutional change allowing Gnassingbe to run two more times and potentially remain in power until 2030.

(AFP)

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